Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Album Review: Devlin - A Moving Picture

With the likes of Wretch 32, Ed Sheeran, Labrinth and Katy B listed amongst the list of collaborators; Devlin’s second album A Moving Picture sounds tasty. Read on to find out whether it’s more like crappy reality TV or a must see summer block buster.

The album begins with “Sun Goes Down” featuring Katy B, a song that is hardly memorable. Katy’s voice is almost competing with the strings and guitar on the chorus. Devlin does however mention something that will be questioned by many:

"Times are crazy
In my wildest dreams: a baby
I never did think that I would have been the best MC
in the whole UK scene" - Devlin on “Sun Goes Down”

Yes Devlin is talented, yes he has a good technical ability crafting lyrics but he hasn't offered anything substantial enough to prove that he is best. He didn't even make it into the top 5 of MTV’s 2012 Best MC’s list.

On “Really Cold” Devlin launches an attack on rival MC's for their lack of authenticity. This is something anyone familiar with UK Urban music will seen all too often. It is great to see Devlin retain what made him popular on the underground, while so many of his peers have changed tact and switched to making Pop music with the same old tired formula (Dance music with a singer on the chorus).

"MCs I should punch you in your mouth
you ain't from the street you spit shit on funky house
European Dance mixed into Trance
Can't feel safe with all the jewellery on your arms" Devlin on “Really Cold”

The Bob Dylan sampling “Watchtower” was A Moving Picture’s lead single and features Ed Sheeran. Devlin’s final verse is quite introspective and is one of the album’s best. Labrinth’s guitar led production provides a different canvas for Devlin to work from and is a welcome change from the Dance sound that has been exhausted by British MC’s in recent years.


Wretch 32 kills “Off With Their Heads”, there are too many quotable lines from his verses on this. The strings do however ruin this, they are too loud & prominent rather than taking a backseat to Wretch and Devlin’s bars.

I'll make you feel sick like SuBo dropping her thong - Devlin on “Off With Their Heads”


A Moving Picture’s stand out track is “Ghost Ship”, Devlin is on point lyrically and the production is probably the best on the album. I wish the album sounded more like this, it's a shame that Jarrad Rogers only got one production credit on A Moving Picture - it could have been so much better with more of his input judging by this song.

Devlin samples Cypress Hill’s “I Could Just Kill A Man” on the chorus for “Letter To My Boys” and that is probably the most exciting part of the song. It is a thank you to Devlin's boys and while that's touching it doesn't make for the most entertaining of songs. I thought that was what the 'thank you' section of the album credits was for.

Everything comes together on “Mother’s Son;” - lyrics and production making it one of A Moving Picture's highlights. Devlin provides a poignant reminder of the results of gun violence and how it will never just affect the victim but also their family.

“You can never really hurt one person
only damage everything they love and know
so next time you see red, think slow
before you strip another woman of her soul” - Devlin on “Mother’s Son”

A Moving Picture’s most commercial song is the current single “Rewind”. But it has to be said that Devlin doesn't sacrifice anything on the song, not his content and not his flow - which should be applauded. Diane Birch, helps to ensure that this song appeals to the daytime radio crowd. For what it is though, it’s not that bad.


Raf Riley’s production on “Love Card” is good and is well suited to Etta Bond (exactly what the album’s opening song isn't) and along with Devlin's lyrics makes this one of the album's stand outs.

It is only on A Moving Picture s penultimate track that the album’s concept becomes clear. While the cinematic theme was clear, the way in which the songs tied into isn’t clear until you hear “The Cast”. “you supported me in awkward scenes and now you’re part of the cast,” Devlin spits.

"I've seen men collecting medals, I think we need to pause a bit
cos I ain't hating but the day I start making soft song, I'll probably win an award for it
and for a spitter like myself that's what the bullshit is" - Devlin on “The Garden”

The album’s final track is a reminder (for those that may have somehow forgotten) that Devlin can still spray lyrics over a beat for 3 straight minutes. There’s a few gems in there too (see the quotes above and below).

“my back yard, is too tough for Titchmarsh - Devlin on “The Garden”

Summary
Lyrically Devlin is more advanced than many of his peers, he prefers a more complex flow than other rappers/ MC’s do and he’s quite good at executing it. He’s not really one for metaphors, it seems he’s left that to fellow Movement member Wretch 32. But that is perhaps the trade off that you make when you focus on flow. Clearly Devlin’s vocal contribution is not what lets this album down, it is the production. “Sun Goes Down” for example is incomparable to “Ghost Ship”. Yes the concept (once revealed near the end of the album) is cool, yes Devlin clearly put alot of thought into his lyrics but unfortunately it takes more than that to make a good or classic album.

Rating
Avoid Stream Recommend


Devlin's new album A Moving Picture is available to buy now on iTunes UK. You can also stream A Moving Picture on Spotify.